Roskill Information Services, London, UK, has reported that a number of tungsten concentrate projects have reached commissioning milestones recently, including Saloro and W Resources in Spain, and Speciality Metals International (SMI) in Australia.
According to Roskill, the first concentrates from Saloro’s Barruecopardo project were produced in October, and in an operational update on November 25, Saloro’s 30% owner, Ormonde Mining announced that first sales of 20 t shipments to international buyers had been concluded. Ormonde also noted that initial access to the south end of the main orebody had been planned for early Q4 but had been delayed by the discovery of previous backfilled mine workings, where high-grade tungsten mineralisation had been expected.
Ormonde noted that mining had reached the base of these workings and ore grades were now expected to improve. However, the company cautioned that ore grades may continue to be impacted by old workings as mining advances northwards until the main orebody below the historic pit is reached.
Additionally, on November 28, W Resources stated that it had commenced production of on-spec tungsten and tin at its La Parrilla project. The company reported that initial tungsten concentrate grades met the shipment criteria levels and that it expects grades to improve as the plant moves into steady-state production. W Resources plans to move to a twenty-four-hour operation in December. A further update on December 5, noted that the company had secured a €0.5 million (US $0.6 million) revolving credit facility with Spanish bank CaixaBank to provide working capital.
Roskill also reported that in early December, SMI announced that wet commissioning had been completed at its newly refurbished Mt Carbine tungsten plant in Far North Queensland, Australia, with hot commissioning and first concentrates production expected before the year end. In the first stage, SMI states that its plans to reprocess tailings from the Mt Carbine tungsten mine through its joint-venture with Cronimet Australia, before redeveloping mining operations and undertaking further exploration on adjacent tungsten properties.
Roskill explains that with prices sitting at an average of US $235/mtu for ammonium paratungstate (APT), which represents the industry price benchmark and the main traded form of tungsten, it remains a challenging environment for new feedstock projects to operate in. The company states that key for many of these will be sufficient access to working capital while operations are ramping up.
According to Roskill, the outlook for the tungsten market in 2020 remains overshadowed by high stocks of tungsten metal and carbide powders, as a result of the slowdown in cemented carbide tool production. A quick recovery in vehicle production, one of the main end-use markets for tungsten, could potentially see optimism return rapidly to the sector. Market participants will also be keeping an eye on news of a possible US-China trade resolution, which would likewise help to shore up demand.
Roskill’s full report on Tungsten: Outlook to 2028 was published in March 2019 and is available to download via the company website.